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IOM, Partners Discuss Irregular Migration with Ethiopian State Ministers

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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A high-level donor delegation visiting Horn of Africa of migration routes met with Ethiopian State Minister of Foreign Affairs Regassa Kefale and State Minister for the Ministry of Justice Mesfin Abebe.

The delegates from North America, Europe and Asia — who were supported by IOM — noted Ethiopia's achievements in development over the past decade. They raised questions, however, on how the country would deal with the current drought and persisting irregular migration challenges.

At briefings on two separate days (23/25 February) the State Ministers expressed Ethiopia's efforts to sign an agreement with Gulf countries to pave the way for the continuation of regular labour migration which was put on hold after the government introduced a ban in 2013.

They also highlighted the newly introduced law which enforces penalties on smugglers/traffickers and the creation of job opportunities in the country as some of the major steps the government has taken to curb irregular migration.

Despite such efforts, the numbers of irregular migrants intercepted while trying to cross Djibouti and the Red Sea are on the rise through new routes. Following this, many migrants endure terrible hardships, including being physically abused, held for ransom, or stranded in prisons in transit countries.

Regassa expressed his appreciation for IOM and its partners for their support, particularly for assisting with voluntary return of migrants, which made it possible for many Ethiopian migrants from Yemen, Libya and Malawi to return home.

The delegates praised the country for hosting more than 750,000 refugees while dealing with the El Nino—induced drought which has affected 10.2 million people. The State Minister told delegates that Ethiopia has raised only half of the needed funds to meet the challenges posed by the drought. However, it still requires assistance of partners to fill the gap in order to avoid a worsening of the situation.

During their field visit in Afar, the delegates had the opportunity to witness a drought affected area, where dozens of herders have gathered with their families and remaining livestock. With conditions already dire in February, many families expressed to the delegates their fears of losing all their livelihood to the summer heat.

Regassa called for coordinated efforts of both the government and partners to speed up the response. The delegates expressed their appreciation for the country's improved position in responding to the drought.

In addition to meeting with State Ministers, the delegates also visited two IOM refugee transit centres — one for people waiting to leave for the USA, Europe, Australia and Canada; another hosting Ethiopian unaccompanied minor returnees from Yemen and Djibouti.